Kase-San – Manga Review

Japanese Title: Asagao to Kase-san

 

Genre: Yuri Comedy Romance

Length: 2 volumes (ongoing)

 

Positives:

  • Yamada the adorable and Kase the athletic make for a great couple.
  • The art fits the characters and their personalities well.
  • Establishes the characters and motivations before the relationship starts, making it believable.

Negatives:

  • Want. More.

(contains mild nudity)

Finally, a yuri manga with a comedy focus that knows how to have substance. Asagao to Kase-san is the story of Yamada, self-appointed school gardener, and Kase the star of track and field as they bond over their interests. Yamada suffers from a lack of self-confidence, especially when compared to the tall Kase, and doesn’t think she has a chance with Kase since they are both girls. Kase helps Yamada express herself, be more confident through athletics.

Yamada is disgustingly adorable as a character, and not in the forced manner of mediocre anime. She doesn’t insert random adorable actions dissonant with her character, rather, her attitude and core personality is adorable, thus making her actions intrinsically adorable.

Kase-san’s greatest achievement, for me, is the believability of the relationship. They are established as friends first, couple second, lending a credibility often missing from high school romances (*cough* Bella & Edward *cough*).

I have no difficulty in recommending Kase-san to anyone looking for a laugh and fun story. It’s a joy to see the awkwardness of first love between Kase and Yamada.

Art – High

Energetic art with good shading and gradients. Nice backgrounds. Yamada looks adorable while the ‘cool’ characters actually look it, not infants.

Story – High

A fun story for likeable characters. The relationship is fun to watch develop.

Recommendation: Read it. Incredibly enjoyable manga to read and I look forward to its continuation.

(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)

Fragments of Love – Manga Review

Japanese Title: Omoi no Kakera

 

Genre: Yuri Romance Drama

Length: 2 volumes

 

Positives:

  • A strong protagonist, mature beyond her years.
  • Expressive art.
  • Deals with many issues of same-sex attraction often ignored by other manga.
  • A surprising amount of humour considering the serious issues.

Negatives:

  • The resolution for one of the subplots feels rushed in conclusion.

I was immediately enamoured with Fragments of Love because of the protagonist, Mika, with confidence in her sexuality and blunt nature. I like characters that show strength rather than bowing to others. It’s rare to see the lead character in a yuri romance be the strong one; that trait is usually reserved for the love interest.

Early in high school, Mika realised she was a lesbian and developed a thing for older women. Though she doesn’t make her sexuality public, she isn’t afraid to explore it. She is a regular at a bar where she admires the beautiful owner without shame. One day, she overhears a group of older women berating their married ‘friend’ for not having any children yet, until Mika steps in to shut them up. The woman is in a sexless marriage that had escalated from a pity date into marriage, her mind plagued with doubts about her sexuality all the while. Mika helps the woman discover herself; however, though Mika knew it couldn’t be more than a one-time thing, she still feels a pang of sorrow, reminding her of her first relationship that broke her heart.

Fragments of Love deals with interesting aspects of same-sex sexuality, such as the guilt gay people feel from sex after being told that same gender attraction is wrong throughout their childhood. Mika makes a male gay friend in school, which not only brings great humour to balance the drama, but also allows her to reflect on her own situation by seeing another go through a similar experience.

Fragments of Love was a refreshing read with refreshing characters after so many bad and mediocre series. I would like to see more of Mika’s story.

Art – High

Great character art reminiscent of Bleach, though less ‘shounen’ in style, with plenty of emotion.

Story – High

A great story of sexual exploration and confidence with interesting and varied characters.

Recommendation: Read it. Fragments of Love is worth reading for protagonist Mika alone.

(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)

Cirque Arachne – Manga Review

Japanese Title: Cirque Arachne

 

Similar: Notes from the Garden of Lilies

Flower and Stars

Strawberry Shake Sweet

 

Genre: Yuri Romance Sports

Length: 1 volume

 

Positives:

  • Beautiful, elegant art.
  • The main couple play well off each other with their personalities.

Negatives:

  • Much too short.

(contains mild nudity and sex.)

Charlotte is a trapeze and aerial silk artist in the Cirque Arachne (derived from the Greek myth of Arachne from which the word ‘arachnid’ comes from). She has focus, determination, and skill in her craft, weaving art in the air as she hangs from silk threads. Enter Teti, a new recruit to the circus. When Charlotte is paired with Teti on the trapeze for an upcoming performance, Charlotte starts to feel something strange stir deep inside herself when near Teti.

I genuinely enjoyed Cirque Arachne. What I liked most about this manga was the two characters. Seeing Teti’s innocent goofiness and enthusiasm play off of Charlotte’s professionalism was a pleasure. Their interactions are sweet when they train together, flustering Charlotte more and more as her feelings blossom.

The art is gorgeous with elegant costumes to fit the artistry of a circus performance. The faces are particularly expressive, and when using chibi art, a common tool in romance manga, it still looks distinct to Cirque Arachne and not generic, as with most chibi work.

My biggest complaint is the length. Cirque Arachne is far too short with a premise that could have lasted at least a few volumes.

Art – High

Gorgeous in design and character. Backgrounds could have used the same level of attention.

Story – Medium

A sweet story between two circus performers using their strength of personality and skill to improve each other. Too short, however.

Recommendation: Read it. A premise rarely seen in manga with beautiful art and characters. Also, at just one volume long, Cirque Arachne is a good introduction to the yuri genre.

(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)

Flower Flower – Manga Review

Japanese Title: Flower Flower

 

Genre: Yuri Romance

Length: 2 volumes (discontinued)

 

Positives:

  • Art is quite nice with a variety of angles to keep the visuals fresh.
  • The characters improve in quality during volume two, until…

Negatives:

  • …the manga is cancelled. Cut short at two volumes.
  • The princess is an unlikeable brat most of the time.
  • The setup is nonsensical.
  • The weak prince becomes tiring before long.

(contains mild nudity)

Having read several glowing user reviews on Flower Flower, I expected to find a hidden gem cruelly cut short by the corporate overlord. However, what I found was a manga that surprised me in how long it lasted; I would have cancelled at one volume.

Princess Nina arrives in a foreign country for her arranged marriage with a prince, but upon seeing that he’s a cross-dresser, she chooses the younger prince Shu instead…except he is actually a she, also cross-dressing, just in the opposite direction as her older brother. And so begins the antics between an estranged princess and her husband/wife.

Flower Flower’s biggest problem enters on the first page – Nina. She is an unlikeable brat with her constant spiteful actions to rebel against her arrangement. I have no love for arranged marriages, so I should be cheering for her, but she doesn’t actually fight for her freedom or dignity, instead committing petty acts like hitting Shu out of spite, the one guy/girl on her side in the kingdom. I guess it’s supposed to be funny or endearing, though I don’t see how. Shu, of course, takes this all lying down, being the wimp that she is.

We do see mild improvement in her character and the overall narrative in volume two, but it isn’t much and wasn’t enough to save the project, for it was cancelled soon after. I get the impression that the writer did not know how to start characters as bad/weak while still likeable. The trick is to show all the bad with good motivations underneath (in this case, a mean princess, who is standing up for her freedom) and have at least one characteristic that people can latch onto, say, make her smart or witty. Truth is, Nina isn’t mean enough (proper mean, not petty mean) nor have an interesting characteristic to root for.

With no continuation to Flower Flower, I find no reason for anyone to begin this manga.

Art – Medium

Clean art with a good variety of compositions and angles.

Story – Low

A story cut short just as it started to improve. The first volume is rubbish.

Recommendation: Avoid it. Being incomplete, I can’t recommend Flower Flower, nor for what is there to begin with.

(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)

Flower and Stars – Manga Review

Japanese Title: Hana to Hoshi

 

Similar: Notes from the Garden of Lilies

Cirque Arachne

Strawberry Shake Sweet

 

Genre: Yuri Comedy

Length: 2 volumes

 

Positives:

  • Quite funny at times.
  • No false drama. Keeps the story simple.

Negatives:

  • Should have been longer.
  • Though enjoyable, there isn’t depth to be found here.

When Hanai enters high school, she discovers that she is in the same class as her table tennis rival from middle school, Hoshino, who made her quit playing because Hanai couldn’t beat her. Hoshino always looks cold, making Hanai think she is looking down on her, lording the defeat over her. However, it turns out Hoshino is hiding more emotions beneath the surface.

Outside of the premise, there isn’t much you need to know about Flower and Stars. It’s a simple, fun premise that brings several laughs to a misunderstood romance. While I don’t have much praise to give, I also don’t have any serious issues. Flower and Stars doesn’t force any false drama to extend the narrative or pretend to have depth.

If I had to say something against this manga, it would be length. Flower and Stars is too short, feeling as though it was just getting started at the end.

Art – Medium

Like the story, the art is simple with just enough variety and texturing to enhance the page.

Story – Medium

A simple, yet effective story about a rivalry that turns to love.

Recommendation: Try it. If you’re looking for an easy read and a bit of fun, Hana to Hoshi may be for you.

(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)

Anime and Manga Reviews